This lovely house — Grade II-listed — was built four centuries ago, when (no doubt) all around was rolling fields and endless Bedfordshire skies. Today, it’s a couple of hundred yards up a country lane, that comes straight off the main A505 heading from Hitchin to Luton, with a large cemetery just along the road.
So not quite a countryside idyll, then, but at least you know the neighbours will be dead quiet.
Balancing the house and the location is always part of the fun with any property, of course. And if you’re after a place truly in the country, then a thatched cottage such as this one at the other end of the county — a delightful two-bedroom beauty at £435,000 — is really in the middle of nowhere.
According to its Historic England listing, the present Grade II-listed manor house dates from the 17th century or earlier, although the original manor of Morley was one of three Shermanbury manors listed in the Domesday survey.
Restored, enlarged and partly rebuilt over the years, Morley Manor stands in 14¼ acres of pristine gardens, grounds and post-and-railed paddocks, with southerly views to the South Downs.
It offers more than 6,900sq ft of sumptuously refurbished living space, including a large reception hall and four reception rooms.
The equestrian facility includes a stable courtyard with 11 stables, a heated rug room, a horse wash-down bay with hot and cold water, a heated tack room (what bliss!), a separate oak tack room and two first-floor apartments.
…Adshead Park, a striking Arts-and-Crafts-style country house set in 136 acres of formal gardens, woods and farmland in the hills above the west Berkshire village of Lower Basildon, three miles from Pangbourne and eight miles from Reading.
Adshead was the realisation of a dream for its owner, the charismatic businessman Sir John Madejski, whose ability to see ‘the bigger picture’ led to the foundation of a diverse business empire. It started with the motor classifieds magazine Auto Trader —launched with £2,000 in the 1970s and sold for £260 million in 1998 — but went on to span publishing, hotels, restaurants, radio, a top flight football team (Reading FC) and property.
Dealing with business is one thing; dealing with planning applications is another matter entirely, and it took all of Sir John’s legendary skills to negotiate the labyrinthine process required to build a new country house on virgin farmland in one of the most heavily protected areas of the Home Counties.
From the 16th century onwards, hop-growing was a major source of income in the Weald of Kent, especially around the village of Horsmonden, eight miles east of Tun-bridge Wells, where an enthusiastic American visitor described how ‘the oast-house towers of Horsmonden seem almost to plough the rich soil of their Kentish hopfield like graceful yachts on a gently rolling sea’.
Great Baynden is a superb Kent house that’s full of the sort of touches you’d hope to see when moving to a period home in the country, as Penny Churchill explains.
Such is the backdrop to handsome, Grade II-listed Great Baynden in School House Lane, Horsmonden, which stands on high ground two miles north-east of the village, with panoramic views over the Weald to the North Downs.
How do you define the term ‘household name’? It’s a tricky one. There are probably plenty of people out there, from all walks of life, that most people have heard of; but would you ever describe a politician or an artist as such? Probably not. To reach this level, you need almost to become synonymous with your craft — and the people who scale those heights are few and far between. One such, however, is Frankie Dettori.
The Italian jockey is unarguably the greatest flat racing jockey of his generation, with thousands of winners — including dozens of Classics — to his name. He was only 14 when he moved to Britain to work as a stable lad for Luca Cumani in Newmarket, and before long had earned his chance to race.
His story since then is the stuff of sporting legend: from winning 100 races in a season while still a teenager (an achievement only Lester Piggott had garnered before he did) to going through the card at Ascot in 1996 to his later years of continued success, he’s survived everything from plane crashes and drug scandals to a stint on Celebrity Big Brother.
Lanfranco “Frankie” Dettori, MBE is an Italian horse racing jockey based in the United Kingdom. Dettori has been Champion Jockey on three occasions and has ridden the winners of more than 500 Group races. His most celebrated achievement was riding all seven winners on British Champions’ Day at Ascot in 1996.
Set within the grounds of a Georgian walled-garden, this superb seven-bedroom house has been joyfully designed around the exceptional architectural landscaping. The internal living space spans over 4,580 sq ft across multiple levels, arranged in a playful layout of floating mezzanines, balconies, and a double-height winter garden.
Designed with high energy efficiency in mind The Garden House has outstanding solar collection, heat recovery and rainwater harvesting and is partially earth-sheltered to conserve its heat and energy.
The Garden House is approached via a quiet country lane, leading to a secluded entrance, revealing little of the house from the walled courtyard. A private driveway leads to a sheltered car port available for several vehicles to park adjacently to the house. There is also a log store, outside store room and a smaller front courtyard garden.
In the early 19th century the house kept an extensive library, and the Brontës were regular visitors; many details of the house, particularly the interior, suggest fairly clearly that it was the inspiration for the Lintons’ home, Thrushcross Grange. Anne Brontë was just as inspired as Emily, incidentally: Ponden is also the model for the titular house in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
Ponden Hall is in the village of Stanbury and is even accessed via a lane with a suitably Gothic name: Scar Top Road. It’s huge: there are eight bedrooms, a paddock, four acres of land and a further two-bedroom annexe — ideal for the Nelly who looks after your family, or for use as a potential holiday let to Brontë-mad tourists.
The oldest parts of the hall date to 1541, but most of the house as it stands today goes back to 1634 — and the evidence of its great age is plain to see.
The beams, walls, floors, ceilings, fireplaces and windows are gloriously authentic — and the owners have doubled-down on the effect with some wonderfully inspired furniture choices, especially with the beds. Don’t fret about the fact that you’d struggle to find similar pieces yourself: the vendors are apparently happy sell it on via separate negotiation.
See how since buying the house with his wife, managing director of creative agency Winkreative, Ariel Childs, 20 years ago, Paul de Zwart has transformed a 17th-century cottage into a refined take on the English country house idiom, with interiors that bear the mark of the couple’s desire for contemporary country living, where wellies are as at home as a cocktail shaker.
London-based entrepreneur Paul de Zwart crystallized the concept for his fledgling furniture company, Another Country, while searching for some simple bedside tables and stools for his country house. “I realized there was a dearth of well-made, well-priced design with a modern craft heritage,” he says. His solution? An affordable line of pared-down pieces that are handmade in England from sustainable woods. “We’re going for timeless over trendy.”